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Unions brand employers' refusal to consider pay claim an 'unnecessary provocation'

11 May 2018 | last updated: 16 May 2018

Further education unions have branded a refusal by the Association of Colleges (AoC) to consider the national pay claim for 2018/19 while local pay disputes are ongoing as an 'unnecessary provocation'.

At a meeting of the National Joint Forum (NJF) on 1 May, the joint trade unions* set out a national claim for 2018/19 for a pay rise of 5% or £1500, whichever is greater.

However, the AoC said it will not begin discussions on next year's claim until current pay disputes are resolved. Members of the UCU at ten colleges are due to walk out for up to seven days in May and June over pay claims for 2017/18.

In a letter to the employer body's chief executive, David Hughes, signed by the joint secretaries of the National Joint Forum Trade Union Side, unions expressed solidarity with staff currently taking action in pursuit of better pay and conditions.

They also warned that it was 'unacceptable' for the AoC to attempt to put pressure on members of one union by refusing to discuss the joint claim, and said the approach would damage industrial relations. The letter said the decision risked undermining 'the credibility and relevance of the AoC to the sector'.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'The AoC's refusal to consider next year's pay claim is inflammatory and deeply unhelpful. Attempting to put pressure on striking staff in this way is completely unacceptable. The sector needs effective national bargaining where decisions on pay and conditions are binding. Unless the AoC urgently changes its position we will be submitting the national claim at a local level.'

UNISON head of education, Jon Richards, said: 'Rather than playing silly games, the AoC should be concentrating on working with the unions to secure increased funding and pay for a decimated further education sector, not starting new squabbles that only serve to weaken its position. Support staff feel terribly demoralised after years of pay rises that have persistently fallen well short of the cost of living. Now the fact that college heads appear to be refusing to sit down to talk about pay with the unions shows an astonishing degree of contempt for their hardworking and dedicated workforce.'

*The joint trade unions are:
National Education Union (NEU) - ATL and AMiE sections